For some decades ago, in business world, many companies had been successfully operated, and of course, many were eradicated out of the game. we can easily predict that the former firms might have good managers to run their business effectively, or such firms might have the right choice of offering goods and services that have high demand at that period, or it may be other factors contributing to their success such as employees skills, effective cost production and so on. For the later firms, the outcomes of these unsuccessful ones might be resulted from being lack of effective managers, or because of wrong goods and services they were offering, and etc.
Today business world, in order to have long-lasting survival, in addition to effective managers, cost effective production, good employees, and right product choices, firms have to maintain, store, and enhance what their managers and employees know such as experiences about setting effective and efficient plan for their company and the way company is managed, understandings of customers , experiences about making products or services, and so on. In other words, knowledge of employees and staffs in the company must be maintained for the application of next generation.
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It is the truth that today firms are more focus on knowledge maintenance, especially in high technology industry in order to keep their position in the business world, and hence, knowledge management is one of the most important policy firms put it on priority among their goals and objectives. An in-depth analysis into this issue will provide you background of knowledge at different views, how knowledge management is performed in today business competitive industry, why it is important to entities, and its life cycle as well.
Suppose that two employees who have the same period working in a garment company but why their production is considerably different after a specific time? People may commonly answer that it is due to the difference of their working skills, knowledge, and experiences. Of course, we can easily realize that employee who has high production would have better skills, knowledge and experiences compared with the remaining one. It will be profitable if all employees are high production ones. The truth is that the more skills, knowledge, and experience employees possess, the more value the company will be added. That is why knowledge management will somehow play a major role in the company strategy.
To understand about knowledge management, we have to know what is the knowledge. Imaging that we know how to cook a bowl of Hue-style-beef noodle, (a traditional food in Hue city, Thua Thien Hue province, Vietnam), the method and the skills we cook are considered as our knowledge. Therefore, knowledge can be come from physical ones such as books, newspaper, magazines, and etc, and hence people can learn cooking from any teaching-cooking boob. Besides, knowledge also can be drawn from experiences of people. For example, a person does not learn cooking through a book, but from what he or she observes other cookers, and then he or she will have knowledge about cooking. To have more understanding about knowledge, let's us consider some views of knowledge. In Elias M. Award and Hassan M. Ghaziri's view (2003), knowledge is defined as "understanding gained through experience or study" (1). For this definition, knowledge may come from familiarity with how to do a special work or also may draw from accumulating facts, procedures rules, or heuristics.
It is also defined that knowledge is " the process of translating information (such as data) and past experience into a meaningful set of relationships which are understood and applied by an individual" (2) (Shelda Debowski, 2006). Looking at these two views, we can see that the former's view has a broader look and more succinct compared with the later's one despite of its short definition. As it has been mentioned above, knowledge can be drawn from experience and study as well, but the thing is that what will we name knowledge from experience, and knowledge from study, making it easy to have a closer look at knowledge . If we want to have an in-depth understanding about knowledge, we have to know it in details, and It will be more understandable for readers if knowledge can be categorized. That is the reason why knowledge experts from different countries have categorized knowledge into two common types, the tacit knowledge and the explicit knowledge.
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It is not difficult for us to understand about tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. "Tacit" means to be silent, and hence it might not be spoken out, meaning that if a person has tacit knowledge, he or she might not be able to hand it over to other people by the means of communication, or writing description and the like. In other words, it is the knowledge we know but we do not realize we have known , and how we know it, thus we might not be able to make it understandable . For instance, knowing how to drive a bike is what tacit knowledge is about because it is very difficult to teach people driving via any writing description. Indeed, we all know about how to drive it but we cannot teach others step by step, or by writing the process of how to write a bike. This results in that no books teaching about bike driving are published in the world.
Talking about explicit knowledge, we can realize that "explicit" means to be clear and directed. Therefore, such knowledge can be learned via academic and technical methods such as books, writings, chatting, communicating, and the like. A person knows how to cook through direction from a book is the explicit knowledge.
In order to specify what is belong to tacit knowledge, and what is belong to explicit knowledge, we should realize characteristics each type of knowledge possesses. According to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)(3),tacit knowledge has the following characteristics:
It is the knowledge used to create explicit knowledge.
It is best communicated personally through dialogue and scenarios, with the use of metaphors.
It is the knowledge embedded in the mind of human.
And the explicit knowledge's characteristics are listed as follow:
It can be codified and digitized in books reports and so on.
It can be retrieved and transmitted more easily than tacit knowledge.
Professor Ikujiro Nonaka (2011), in an interview with Vietnam Economist Times, characterized tacit knowledge as subjective knowledge that is difficult to express in word and explicit knowledge as objective and rational knowledge that can be expressed in words (4). All of these characteristics, it is better for us to summarize that tacit knowledge is subjective (only existing in one's mind)and explicit is objective (exist outside one's mind as a real thing) and rational.
Imaging that in a specified time, a manufacturing company possesses a very good employees and staffs, and hence reaches low production cost, meaning that it will add more value to the firm because products are produced at a low cost by such employees. After two or three decades, most of those employees and staffs are retired according to employment rules, and new employees will be recruited into the company. Of course, these new employees are not good as those who have retired in terms of skills, and awareness of production process. As a result, the company will somehow face high production cost, reducing company's income, and that becomes a problem for that company. We can easy realize that it is the problem of knowledge management. If that company initially had knowledge management plan, the problem might not came.
Knowledge management is about managing knowledge, especially in today companies, helping them maintain knowledge that their current employees, staffs, experts, and all managers possess in order to survive and to have positions in today competitive market. According to Kimiz Dalkir (2005), knowledge management is "the process of applying a systematic approach to the capture, structure, management, and dissemination of knowledge throughout an organization in order to faster, reuse best practices, and reduce costly rework from project to project"(5. We can consider that knowledge management can be standard for companies that have the same industry, but the knowledge management approach in these companies might be different in terms of size, operational style, power of the company. Apple corporation is a manufacturing firm(producing cellular phones, Ipads, computers, and etc) that has more power than other companies having the same industry to run knowledge management effectively. That is the reason, the company publishes new generations of Iphone, Ipad in every year. For small companies, knowledge management might not be well operated, this may be because they do not have enough capital to use for knowledge management or may be due to their poor management style.
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The outcomes of effective knowledge management are quite considerable. It adds more value to companies, and helps companies keep its position in the competitive market. To improve knowledge management outcomes, one factor companies must consider is about their customers, and what customers need and what customers desire from the company will somehow contribute to company's advantages. Apple corporation has been aware about that factor, and hence, new features and favorite shape of Iphone are added to new generation, attracting customers to buy the new. Another factor companies should take a look at it is the product life cycle. If firms just concentrate on knowledge management but do not care about whether products they produce is out of date or not, the problem will come. Motorola corporation is an example, when become the global leader in pager market, leaders in the company effectively performed knowledge management strategy, and thus new generation of pagers was published, but the problem is that pagers was out of date due to advent of cell phones. Therefore, product life cycle consideration will in some ways contribute to the outcomes of knowledge management.
Leaderships and skills needed to enhance knowledge management process
Who will be important to knowledge management must be considered if we want our company have good knowledge management strategy installed. Managers are necessary to knowledge management plan in a company. They play a very vital role in supporting, implementing, and encouraging employees of their company. Both middle and top managers might have direct management of these employees. Knowledge management plan will be effectively and efficiently planned , if managers have good skills on planning and are aware of the importance on knowledge management. Besides, managers have to focus on knowledge management cycle in order to reach the best knowledge management strategy. According to Nonaka and Takeuchi(1995), there are four stages in the cycle of knowledge management. Managers should follow these stages. For example, the first stage managers can do is to gather personal skills of employees by the mean of socialization such as face to face communication. Managers should then convert these collected knowledge into meaningful ways that people can understand, that we call the process of externalization. Combination of these "meaningful ways" must be performed in order to reach a new form. The last stage is that managers have to encourage employees to extend the knowledge using their own tacit knowledge. If the four stages are well performed, the outcomes of knowledge management will be very considerable.
To sum up, knowledge management can be viewed as a new vital strategy of any entity in today competitive market as it adds more value to business and keep company's position in the future. That is the reason why many companies have concentrated on knowledge management.
(1): Elias M. Award and Hassan M. Ghaziri, (2003), Knowledge Management, Prentice Hall.
(2): Shelda Debowski, (2006), Knowledge Management, first edition, Sydney and Melbourne, John Wiley and Sons Australia.
(3): Kimiz Dalkir (2005), Knowledge Management In Theory and Practice, Elsevier.
(4): Ikujiro Nonaka ( April 2011), Drawing on Knowledge, Vietnam Economic Times, p.31.